When you’re part of a social media team, the content you share isn’t just nice to look at. It’s part of the lifestyle—the ethos—that your brand projects. This is truer than ever on Instagram. With 400 million users, Instagram has become an outlet for self-expression, allowing people to discover a shared passion for products and places, quite literally through the lens of others – from their friends to their favorite brands.
What you might not realize is that Instagram imagery is beginning to permeate many other marketing environments as well, from product pages and blogs to emails, other social channels, and ads. Take these examples from Nickelodeon, Dunkin’ Donuts, and luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. Recognizing that Instagram images are generating extraordinary levels of engagement, all three of these seemingly disparate brands are populating emails with lifestyle images from Instagram.
We’ve seen time and again that when brands complement traditional stock photos with inspiring lifestyle imagery, whether from Instagram or another experience-driven channel, they see higher clicks and conversions. To get the wheels turning, here are some examples:
- Email: A fitness retailer that works with Curalate delivered a 7x lift in on-site engagement with product photos within 24 hours of sending an Instagram-infused email.
- Product pages: Sigma Beauty generated a 4x lift in on-site engagement after adding a gallery of Instagram-sources images onto their product pages.
- Brick-and-mortar: Lilly Pulitzer hangs printouts of their top performing Instagram images throughout their stores to inspire customers as they shop. It’s a little more difficult to measure, but a fascinating application nonetheless!
As you can see, Instagram images have legs. So, how can you reach more consumers in more places with one powerful picture?
A brand that’s got this down pat is Urban Outfitters. Let’s take a look at how Urban turns a short-lived Instagram image into a long-term engagement, traffic and revenue driver.
STEP ONE: PUT YOUR BEST PHOTO FORWARD
Before anything else, you need to select an image to use – one that feels authentic, captures a moment, and features your products or services prominently.
Social imagery in particular comes in many forms. While community managers are busy creating editorial-style photos out in the field, marketers can also source inspiring content from bloggers, influencers, advocates, and of course, their customers.
Many marketers consider crowdsourced content to be highly valuable, as these assets provide authentic visual endorsements from influential members of the community – many who are paying customers. Urban Outfitters is one of these brands. Today, the lifestyle retailer receives hundreds of user images daily containing the hashtag #UOonYOU. And so, they are able to use fan-sourced images often and in many places.
HOW TO FIND YOUR BRAND IN THE WILD
There are many ways to find images that pertain to your products and content. For instance, you can:
- Search by hashtag
- Search by geographic location
- Create an upload widget so consumers can submit images directly
Urban Outfitters found the image shown here by pulling in content containing their branded hashtag, #UOonYOU.
BUT, WHAT MAKES AN IMAGE GREAT?
Once you’ve found images about your products, how can you choose the ones that best represent your brand? Consider the following:
The Person: Start with the basics. Who’s the photographer; how many followers do they have; and do they appear to fit your brand profile? In this instance, the user—let’s call her @clairebear1234—has around 3,000 followers. Not a celebrity or influencer, exactly, but definitely a solid audience size. The image has 500 likes too, suggesting that the image was well-received.
The Picture: This is even more important than the person behind the lens. Does the image convey your brand aesthetic? Does it adhere to your visual voice? In this instance, it doesn’t get much better. The fan’s image is not only on-brand—cool vibe, dreamy aesthetic—but two of Urban’s products are featured, adorned by young women who look like the typical Urban shopper.
So, now that you’ve identified the image you want to use, how can you begin to share it across multiple consumer touch points to drive measurable business value?
STEP TWO: START WITH A SIMPLE RE-GRAM
While the intention of this blog post is to help you think beyond Instagram, it’s important to remember just how powerful this channel is. Leveraging fan-sourced content really can be as easy as a re-gram. Sharing UGC on your brand’s Instagram page can pique excitement among a broad set of consumers (your followers) who relate to the lifestyle depicted in the image. And of course, it’s an excellent way to give context to a product and celebrate an active social fan. Notice how Urban’s social team reposts the image to promote New Year’s Eve attire, while giving @clairebear1234 a shout-out along the way.
The result? As you can see from the examples below, the comments from Urban’s community were overwhelmingly positive. Consider this an indication that the image might fare well outside of the Instagram environment.
STEP THREE: FEATURE THE IMAGE ON YOUR WEBSITE
One of the most effective ways to start thinking about Instagram content within the context of commerce is by bringing it onto your website. Urban Outfitters places their customers’ lifestyle shots front and center in their UOCommunity gallery, providing a platform through which they can spotlight the hundreds of Instagram images they receive daily.
Not only does every image include the user’s Instagram handle and the number of “likes” the photo received, but the look is completely shoppable. Instagram images are featured alongside Urban’s stock photo of the product, and the call-to-action is clear. If you like it, simply click to “Shop It.”
As a result, Urban has reported a 15% click-through rate from Instagram-sourced images to products.
STEP FOUR: JUST PIN IT!
Finally, to extend the life of their Instagram images even further, Urban Outfitters created a Pinterest board dedicated to #UOonYOU content. By sharing @clairebear1234’s photo on a channel that’s built for discovery, Urban is creating future opportunities to drive engagement, traffic and potential revenue. There are a few ways to think about the value of Pinterest, which I’ve outlined below:
On Pinterest, images are shared publicly, leading people to discover products they didn’t know they were looking for to begin with. Each time a person repins Urban’s image to their own board, an entirely new set of people will be exposed to their content and products. This can continue over an indefinite period of time, meaning the image can be rediscovered again and again.
Pinterest is known to have important search implications. When users search certain combinations of keywords, different results populate. As you can see below, the phrase “Urban + Outfitters + Romper” yields our aforementioned image:
One thing to note is the difference between @clairebear1234’s image and the rest of the resulting pins. While other pins are highly stylized—bleek backgrounds, professional models—Urban’s user image projects a lifestyle. This air of authenticity, combined with visual context, makes it pop. You can imagine it being pinned to all sorts of pinboards, from “Friends” and “Photography” to “San Francisco Trip Ideas.”
The more often an image is pinned, the more accessible it will be.
Since Urban’s pin links back to the product detail page, consumers can easily click on the image to learn more about and potentially buy the romper. The more often people discover the pin, the more engagement, traffic and revenue Urban will be able to drive.
Of course, the caveat here is that Urban’s black dress and romper may not be around forever. One way to solve for this is to change out dead links consistently, and drive users to similar product pages so they can continue to browse and shop.
THE MANY LIVES OF A SINGLE IMAGE
So, what’s the moral of the story here? Instagram is loaded with amazing imagery – shared by both brands and consumers. By embracing your top Instagram images outside of the Instagram environment, this inspiring lifestyle content can add value at various points of the purchase funnel. As we saw with Urban Outfitters’ example, a single user-generated image wound up not only on the brand’s owned Instagram channel but also on Pinterest and their website. Keep this in mind as you think of all the different ways you can breathe new life into existing images.
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